Bradley Suttle had a 2011 season he would rather soon forget. While the .215 average 108 strikeouts…
Beyond The Top 50 Prospects
LHP, Jeremy Bleich: The former supplemental first round pick has been working his way back from shoulder surgery for the past two years. Prior to his surgery he had some great stuff for a lefty; a power fastball that could hit 94 mph, a plus curveball, and a big league changeup. His command was spotty though and it remains to be seen if his command can improve or if his stuff can come back from the shoulder surgery. Should either one come back though, he has what it takes to be an instant Top 50 guy again.
OF, Yeicok Calderon: The Dominican native can be an extremely productive and powerful hitter from the left side, and he put up some monstrous numbers in the Dominican Summer League for two seasons. He has some speed, good arm strength, and plus power potential. However, he can be atrocious defensively in the outfield and he has proven to be susceptible to good breaking pitches in the United States so far. He has a significant offensive ceiling worth tracking but there is also a considerable bust factor in play if he can't make the breaking ball adjustment in the coming years.
RHP, Mariel Checo: The Yankees knew their 41st round pick back in the 2009 MLB Draft was going to be a long-term project that was going to take some time to develop and he's starting to do just that. Forget his numbers with the Gulf Coast League Yankees in 2011 [2.00 ERA, 41 K's in 27 innings] even though they were good, it's his stuff that is starting to take shape. Sitting in the 92-94 mph range with good movement on his fastball, his slider has become Major League quality too and now he's throwing more strikes. Once a forgotten man he's starting to have the look of a 'sleeper' out of the bullpen.
RHP, Preston Claiborne: Last year's 17th round pick is the poster child for the ever-increasing depth of quality relief pitching prospects in the Yankees farm system. He had a solid first full season in 2011, posting a 3.11 ERA and striking out 75 batters in 81 innings for the Tampa Yankees, mostly on the strength of his fastball-changeup combination. He has a quality slider too but it just lacks the consistency needed right now to be considered one of the top guys just yet. He is oh-so-close to being a Top 50 prospect.
RHP, Dawerd Cruz: At 22 years old and still at the rookie level, Cruz doesn't exactly profile as a top prospect from an age standpoint. However, signed later than most Dominican natives, he boasts a fastball that touches 95 mph and a decent curveball-changeup combination that has room to grow. Usually pitchers who spend three years in the Dominican Summer League like he did don't amount to much at the big league level but he does have the look of a potential late-bloomer worth tracking in the short-term.
OF, Kelvin De Leon: The Dominican native has always had most of the basic tools to be an impact player; good speed, great power, and above average to plus arm strength in the outfield. Four years into his career, however, he has shown very few signs of being able to lay off of [let alone hit] good breaking pitches out of the zone. His sink-or-swim offensive talents give him big bust potential and will need to rectify that major problem going forward to realize his true potential.
LHP, Evan DeLuca: The 44th round pick in 2009 had an inconsistent debut season in 2010. Despite showing plus stuff at times, he just didn't throw enough strikes. That same inconsistent command plagued him once again in 2011 but the stuff saw a regression of sorts. Battling mild elbow tenonditis seemingly all year, his once 91-94 mph fastball dipped down to the 87-91 mph range for the most part this season. If he can get the velocity back up, especially with the improved curveball he was throwing at Instructs, and if he can improve his fastball command, he could be a special left-handed pitching prospect. For now though it's a wait-and-see proposition.
RHP, Brett Gerritse: The 12th round pick in 2009 out of high school continues to defy the scouting community. Not blessed with a power arm, he sits mostly in the 88-89 mph range with his fastball and shows both a quality curveball and changeup, and he continues to put up good numbers [4-0, 1.72 ERA, nearly a strikeout per inning pitched]. He has some deception to his delivery and at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, and still 20 years old, he does offer up some hope that he could add some more velocity in the coming years.
LHP, Shaeffer Hall: The victim of a numbers game in regards to the outstanding depth in the Yankees farm system, Hall had a very solid campaign in 2011. He went a combined 11-8 with a 4.07 ERA between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton. He doesn't have a plus pitch in his arsenal but knows how to mix up a four-pitch repertoire to keep hitters off-balance. There's nothing sexy about his game but he is a valuable innings eater that could prove to be valuable in a pinch in the coming years. Think of a left-handed version of Lance Pendleton.
LHP, Chaz Hebert: This year's 27th round pick out of high school has a lot going for him already, boasting an 89-91 mph fastball, a good looking curveball, and a good changeup. He has yet to make his official minor league debut but the overall package is very intriguing. A victim of the overall depth down on the farm, it shouldn't be long before he is considered one of the better pitching prospects for the Yankees.
RHP, Jairo Heredia: It seemed the Dominican native had turned a corner in his development in 2011, not only showing the same two plus secondary pitches he always had but once again getting his fastball back up to the 90-92 mph range. He was having an outstanding season for the Tampa Yankees too, going 8-2 with a 3.29 ERA and striking out a batter per inning pitched, until he went down with another shoulder injury that required season-ending surgery this time. Like Bleich, Heredia is a Top 50 talent who is now in a wait-and-see mode to see if his stuff can come back after shoulder surgery.
RHP, Tommy Kahnle: You don't need any further proof of the Yankees' incredible depth than Kahnle, a power reliever who struck out 112 batters in just 81 innings with the Charleston RiverDogs in his first full season of professional baseball this year. Able to sit in the low-to-mid-90s with his fastball, it's his inconsistencies that are holding him back from becoming a true force on the mound; inconsistent mechanics, spotty command, and a slider that can disappear for long stretches. Should those areas improve soon, he has the necessary foundation to be an impact reliever at the big league level someday.
OF, Ray Kruml: Blessed with super speed and outstanding defensive abilities, Kruml has been and perhaps for the foreseeable future will remain a legitimate big league reserve outfielder type. A little Brett Gardner-like in those regards, what he lacks for a small-ball player is an ability to draw walks and make better use of his plus speed. If he could ever improve that patience at the plate he could become a Top 50 guy, but as of now he is better suited in a reserve role capacity.
3B, Fu-Lin Kuo: The Taiwan native seemed poised for a breakout season in 2011 but it never came to fruition, especially after losing some playing time at third base to first round pick Dante Bichette Jr.. He still had a solid year, hitting .250 with three home runs for the Gulf Coast League Yankees, but he never seemed truly comfortable. The cultural transition to the United States has not been easy for him but should that transition come full circle he does have some innate hitting ability that could start to shine. He too is a 'sleeper' worth tracking, especially now that he has been getting some time at second base.
1B/3B, Rob Lyerly: The sixth round pick in the 2009 MLB Draft is kind of like a hitting version of Shaeffer Hall in that he doesn't have the one plus tool that leads many scouts to become big believers in his long-term big league prospects but he goes out and continues to get the job done. He hit a combined .280 with 32 doubles and eight home runs between high-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, and his bat from the left side has some value. He has a lot of work to do defensively from a consistency standpoint, but if he could learn to pull the ball more he could start putting up some intriguing numbers as a reserve corner guy going forward.
UT, Kevin Mahoney: A plus-plus defensive third baseman with power from the left side, the 23rd round pick out of college in 2009 continues to put up numbers in sparing playing time for the Yankees and he has added some other positions [2B, 1B, corner outfield] to his defensive repertoire. The fact that he hasn't grabbed a full-time starting job at the minor league level hurts his prospect value, but the guy keeps on hitting [36 doubles, 16 home runs in his last 641 at-bats]. Players with his kind of pop and defensive abilities should not be overlooked as potential impact guys off of a big league bench.
RHP, Conor Mullee: The former college shortstop has all of the makings of being an eventual impact relief pitcher in due time; high level of athleticism, power sink with a 95 mph fastball, good command for a pitcher so new to the mound, and a developing slider that can be devastating at times. Still working his way back from Tommy John surgery, in nearly any other year where the Yankees' depth wasn't so great he'd be a Top 50 prospect for sure. He just needs to get back on the mound and not lose any more development time because the raw talent is certainly there.
1B, Reymond Nunez: The Dominican native can be an absolute beast in the power department, leading the Staten Island club with 20 doubles this past season. At 6-foot-4 with plus power right now though, his swing can get a little long when he gets home run and pull-happy. When he stays short and uses a center-to-opposite field approach is when he is at his best, and he has shown that ability for long stretches. He just needs to do it more consistently because the raw power potential is there to be an impact bat down the road.
SS, Jose Pirela: The Venezuelan native is a solid prospect overall, especially with the bat, but he has struggled with consistency now that he has gotten to the higher minor league levels. He hit just .239 for Double-A Trenton despite hitting a career-high eight home runs in 2011, but take away one brilliant month [.333, 10 doubles, three home runs] and he was not very productive at all. He still has some talent and could probably flourish more at second base [his best position], but his inconsistencies on both sides of the ball are a big flaw that needs to be corrected going forward.
RHP, Reynaldo Polanco: The numbers for the Dominican native in 2011 were pretty brutal, going just 3-6 with a 6.86 ERA for the Gulf Coast League Yankees. Behind the numbers, however, is some real talent. He sits comfortably in the 91-93 mph range with a good looking curveball and both pitches have plus potential. He is a little bit Ivan Nova-like with his combination of stuff and demeanor on the mound, and that makes him a 'sleeper' going forward.
1B, Kyle Roller: Last year's 8th round pick out of East Carolina University had a solid first full season in 2011, hitting a combined .284 with 31 doubles and 16 home runs between low-A Charleston and high-A Tampa. He has a patient approach at the plate despite not drawing a high number of walks and he has some more hidden power in his swing that has been on full display during batting practice. That makes him a 'sleeper' of sorts if he can carry that into the games more but it also has the jury still out on how powerful a corner infielder he could become long-term. He's a little Juan Miranda-like offensively and he's made some marked improvements defensively.
LHP, Francisco Rondon: Based on pure stuff alone, the Dominican native is a Top 50 talent. He boasts a plus fastball-plus slider combination that can make him quite devastating to left-handed batters. In fact, he might be the best in-house left-handed relief specialist in the entire organization despite not having reached the high-A level yet. All of that makes him very intriguing going forward but with 27 walks in 41 innings this year, he's going to need to improve his fastball command to realize his considerable ceiling. He's a true 'sleeper' in this group.
RHP, Hayden Sharp: If there's a Zach Nuding type down on the farm right now as a potential long-term impact reliever who will probably begin his career as a starting pitcher, it's Sharp. Standing 6-foot-6 and 195 pounds, the Oklahoma native spent his youth focused on both basketball and football. He has a lot to learn about baseball at the professional level, but he can sit in the mid-90s with his fastball and his athleticism suggests he has what it takes to make long-term adjustments. He's in that wait-and-see mold for now, but the ceiling is immense.
LHP, Kramer Sneed: The numbers [3.99 ERA, 110 K's in 103.2 innings] are certainly there for the 32nd round pick in 2010 and he is starting to show that he has more than just an effective fastball. Sitting 88-92 mph with his heater, he now has a quality slider and quality changeup that he can throw into the mix. A little more consistency with both secondary pitches going forward and Sneed could have the look of a 'sleeper' prospect worth tracking.
OF, Eduardo Sosa: Sosa has natural Top 50 talent, plain and simple, but it's his rather shy demeanor and uneasiness on the field at times that has gotten in the way of him tapping his immense talent. He's a plus defensive player at all three outfield spots, he has plus speed, and he has surprising power. He just lacks confidence for long stretches and that affects his consistency at the plate, and now outfield prospects with as much talent and better confidence are starting to take his playing time. He needs a breakout season in the worst way to boost his confidence and get him back on the prospect map. He has the talent to do just that.
3B, Bradley Suttle: What a difference a year makes! Finishing his 2010 campaign in strong fashion coming off of two shoulder surgeries, Suttle was poised for the type of breakout season most scouts believed he had coming to him but it never came to be. He struggled again, this time hitting just .215 with 108 strikeouts in only 86 games for Double-A Trenton before going down with another injury to the same [twice] surgically repaired shoulder. The soon to be 26-year old is a little too old to be considered a prospect now even though the talent is quite good and now he needs to prove he can remain healthy for an entire year again [a feat he has only accomplished once in his career].
C, Isaias Tejeda: Arguably the last one out of the Top 50 rankings, the Dominican native had a whale of a first season in the United States this year, hitting .331 with six home runs for the Gulf Coast League Yankees. Relatively new to catching as well, he made some marked improvements defensively behind the plate. Another season like he had in 2011 and it will just be a matter of time before he becomes a legit Top 50 candidate, even in a farm system as deep as the Yankees. He'll be one to watch in the coming years.
LHP/RHP, Pat Venditte: The ambidextrous pitcher has more attraction to fans than scouts but he is starting to become a viable left-handed specialist option. His 3.40 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 90 innings for Double-A Trenton this year were quite good, but it's his .213 opponents batting average and higher strikeout ratio from the left side that could carve him out a big league niche long-term. He's not a Top 50 prospect but he still has some value going forward.
RHP, Philip Wetherell: Like Arneson, this year's 8th round pick is a big-bodied power reliever who can sit in the 93-94 mph range with his fastball and has some offspeed offerings with significant potential, including a split-finger and a slider. Both are a little inconsistent right now, especially the slider, but if he can make marked improvements with them going forward he's a reliever with some upside. Striking out 41 batters in 30 innings with Staten Island last season, he'll be one to track in the coming years.
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